Winter Tales

Winter tales — stories to tell or to read around a warm fire on a cold dark night, preferably with a steamy hot drink to wrap your hands around.

NewImage“The Yule Log” by R. Caldecott for Old Christmas: From the Sketch Book of Washington Irving, 1886
Project Gutenberg

Winter tales are mostly ghost stories, and often associated with Christmas. I try to share a few every year during the Holiday Season. This is where I collect links or copies of all the (mostly) public domain winter tales I’ve blogged about.

12/2/2018 — I’ve now added links to my original blog posts, where I include more commentary about the story or the author, and sometimes why I chose a particular story, as well.

Enjoy.


The Old Portrait
A Christmas vampire story by Hume Nesbit
Original blog post — my first winter tale!

The Marble Child
By Edith Nesbit. Published in the 1910 Christmas number of The Graphic magazine. A lonely little boy makes a new friend.
Original blog post.

The House On the Cliff
By W. J. Wintle. Cyril just wanted to get away for some peace and quiet, but he got more than he bargained for.
Original blog post.

The Searcher of the End House
By William Hope Hodgson. One of Carnacki the Ghost-finder’s early cases: a ghostly game of hide-and-seek.
Original blog post.

The Old Nurse’s Story
By Elizabeth Gaskell. Ghost organs and old secrets haunt Furnivall Manor.
Original blog post.

The Highwaymen
By Lord Dunsany. Not quite a ghost story, but a lovely little weird tale that just begs to be read aloud.
Original blog post.

The Family of a Vourdalak (as PDF: 1.8 MB)
Also as EPUB (520 KB)
By Alexei Tolstoy. A longer novella. A womanizing French diplomat stays with a Serbian family (with a beautiful daughter) whose patriarch may or may not be a vourdalak (vampire).
Original blog post.

The Crown Derby Plate (Link to Project Gutenberg Australia)
By Marjorie Bowen. Martha Pym has two wishes: to see a ghost, and to complete her Crown Derby tea service.
Original blog post.

Account Rendered
By W. F. Harvey. Mr. Tolson has a strange desire: to be anesthetized on a certain December date, at midnight. And he’s willing to pay a lot for it. But why?
Original blog post.

At Chrichton Abbey
By Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Is there doom hanging over the sons of the Chrichton family? Can getting married prevent it?
Original blog post.

Number Ninety
By B. M. Croker. John Hollyoak, skeptic, agrees to spend the night in Number Ninety, a house of “such a desperate reputation, that even the adjoining mansions stood vacant.” Does it change his mind? Of course it does.
Original blog post.

Thirteen At Table
By Lord Dunsany. Sort of a companion piece to “Number Ninety.” Mr. Linton ends up at a most interesting dinner party. Is the haunting rats in the wainscoting, or bats in the belfry? You decide. Slightly creepy and gently humorous.
Original blog post.

The Haunted Dragoon
By Arthur Quiller-Couch. A handsome dragoon (cavalry or mounted infantryman), searching for a fugitive smuggler, billets himself and his men at the home of a miserly farmer and his much younger, love-starved wife. The inevitable happens, with dark, dark consequences….
Original blog post.

The Kit-Bag
By Algernon Blackwood. Johnson works for a law firm that has just won the acquittal (by insanity) of an especially vicious murderer. Worn out by the case, and obsessed by the killer’s evil face, Johnson plans to recover by spending his Christmas holiday in the Alps. Assuming he manages to finish packing for his trip.
Original blog post.

The Magic Shop
By H.G. Wells. A story both sweet and unsettling; the narrator and his son happen upon a wonderful magic shop — one that the narrator hadn’t remembered as being quite in that place.
Original blog post.

The Half-Haunted (Link to Wikisource)
By Manly Wade Wellman (writing as Gans T. Field). The site of a Revolutionary War era murder still holds its memories — and more. This New Year’s eve tale is more action-packed than spooky, but it’s fun.
Original blog post.

Some “true” spooky stories from Ghosts and Family Legends: A Volume for Christmas (1858) by Catherine Crowe:

The Face in the Fresco (Link to Ghosts & Scholars)
By Arnold Smith. A Jamesian tale about the collision of the old ways and the new. Mr. Jones takes a weekend to visit a newly discovered, rather sinister twelfth-century fresco.
Original blog post.

A Strange Christmas Game
By Charlotte Riddell. Struggling artist John Lester and his sister unexpectedly inherit a country estate — which is haunted by the ghost of an ancestor. Things come to a head on Christmas Eve.
Original blog post.

Christmas Eve (as PDF: 1.6 MB) Also as EPUB (114 KB)
By Nikolai Gogol. No ghosts, but witches, the devil, and lots of farcical supernatural hijinks. A pious blacksmith colludes with the devil to impress the woman he loves. Rich in details of Ukrainian folkore and folklife. This one isn’t spooky, but it’s a lot of fun.
Original blog post.

Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk
By Frank Cowper. A stranded duck hunter must spend Christmas Eve alone on a mysterious derelict ship. But is he really alone?
Original blog post.

The Houseboat
By Richard Marsh. Sort of a companion piece to “Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk.” Eric and Violet Millen hear a ghostly argument on their rented houseboat — one with deadly consequences.
Original blog post.

The Doll’s Ghost
By F. Marion Crawford. Mr. Puckler the doll doctor loves his job and the dolls that he repairs, but he loves his daughter Else more. He develops a special fondness for the doll Nina, perhaps because she reminds him a little of Else.
Original blog post.

The Trial for Murder
By Charles Dickens. A banker recalls some visions and visitations he had relating to a sensational murder. Sort of a companion piece to “The Kit-Bag.”
Original blog post.

Dark Christmas (Link to Jeanette Winterson’s website)
By Jeanette Winterson. A mysterious, isolated house; footsteps in empty rooms; bats; flaky electricity, and of course (that modern touch) a phone that gets no signal. A contemporary winter tale in the traditional mode.
Original blog post.

My Wife’s Promise
By Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Dunrayne promises his beloved wife Isabel that he has given up Arctic exploration for good, but she can see how that promise is killing him, and she loves him enough to release him from his vow. Dunrayne swears that this expedition will be the last time.
Original blog post.

The Maid of the Mill
By Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon. The tale of a haunted mill, where manifestations occurred every Christmas Eve for nineteen years, and three separate ghost hunter parties were driven to madness while investigating. But, of course, there had to be a fourth attempt. It went about as well as you would expect.
Original blog post.

Glámr
by Sabine Baring-Gould. Icelandic hero-outlaw Grettir Ásmundarson battles the draugr (vengeful revenant) Glámr. Retold from the 13th century Icelandic Grettis saga. From my 2018 folklore-themed winter tale series.
Original blog post.

  • Grettir at Thorhall-stead (link to Library of America’s Story of the Week website)
    by Frank Norris. Another retelling of the Grettir and Glámr story.

Hertford O’Donnell’s Warning
By Charlotte Riddell. An Irish surgeon lives in London, having been estranged from his family in Ireland for twelve years. He begins to hear a mysterious wailing that no one but himself and his dog can hear. He knows it’s the family banshee. But is she wailing for him, or someone else in the family? Things come to a head on Christmas Eve. From my 2018 folklore-themed winter tale series.
Original blog post.

Maestro Pérez, Organist
By Gustavo Bécquer. Maestro Pérez, brilliant organist, dies while playing at the Christmas midnight Mass. Who will play the organ next year? Not scary, but the first two-thirds are a good Christmas ghost story. (The translation, by Armand F. Baker, is not public domain. Please don’t share without attribution.)
Original blog post.

The Devil’s Cross
By Gustavo Bécquer. There is a strange iron cross by the banks of the Segre River, and no one ever prays there. (The translation, by Armand F. Baker, is not public domain. Please don’t share without attribution.)
From the same blog post as “Maestro Pérez, Organist”.

A Christmas Tree
By Charles Dickens. More of an essay than a story. In the first part of the essay Dickens writes about his childhood memories, and about story telling in general (lots of references to 1001 Nights). In the second part he gives us synopses of some winter ghost stories that he’s heard over the years.
Original blog post.

Dickon the Devil
By Sheridan Le Fanu. Originally published in the Christmas number of London Society magazine, though it’s not a Christmas-themed story. Nice creepy bedtime visitation.
Original blog post.

A Kidnapped Santa Claus
A charming fairy tale/children’s story by Frank L. Baum of Wizard of Oz fame.
Original blog post.

Christmas Storms and Sunshine (Link to Project Gutenberg)
By Elizabeth Gaskell. Not a ghost story, but a Christmas fable. Rather sweet.
Original blog post.

The Autobiography of a Quack (Link to Project Gutenberg)
A medical short story by Silas Weir Mitchell with just a hint of Christmas spice, and a touch of a Christmas ghost — maybe.
Original blog post.


More Winter Tales

Christmas Ghost Stories: a collection of winter tales
Author Mark Onspaugh’s wife Tobey Crockett happened to drop by one of my Christmas Ghost Story posts, and she mentioned her husband’s recent collection of sixteen winter tales. How could I resist? I read it over Christmas Eve and Christmas evening, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Some of them are fairy tales, some of them are straight up ghost stories; all of them are a good read. My favorites: the four linked Black Forest stories: “The Woodcutter’s Tale,” “The Innkeeper’s Tale,” “The Tinker’s Tale,” and “The Huntman’s Tale.”

4 thoughts on “Winter Tales

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